If you’re a first-time mum, then you probably have a tonne of questions about your pregnancy, and about giving birth. And one of the more common questions that mothers ask is about induced labour.
Induced labour is labour that happens artificially, usually through a capsule or a gel that’s inserted into the vagina. It’s basically a means of speeding up the process of birth.
When is induced labour an option?
For most mums, labour usually doesn’t have to be induced since the process does happen naturally.
However, there are some situations wherein labour needs to be induced, such as in the following cases:
- You’re two weeks beyond your due date, labour still hasn’t started
- Your water has broken, but labour still hasn’t occured
- In cases of an infection in your uterus called chorioamnionitis
- If your baby has stopped growing at their expected pace or what’s also called fetal growth restriction
- There’s not enough amniotic fluid around the baby
- If you suffer from diabetes
- If you have high blood pressure
- If your placenta starts to peel away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery (placental abruption)
- You have a medical condition such as kidney disease or obesity
In these situations, it’s recommended for labour to be induced since not doing so would pose a risk not only to the mother, but also to the baby as well.
How is labour induced?
Before inducing labour, your doctor will usually start a process called a “membrane sweep” or “cervical sweep”.
This is done with the doctor sweeping their finger around your cervix in order to separate the membranes between the amniotic sac and your cervix and this releases hormones which help induce labour. However, in some cases it’s not enough so your doctor will ask you if you want to opt to induce labour instead.
Inducing labour is a fairly straightforward process, and it’s usually done by inserting a tablet called a pessary, or a gel into your vagina.
Once that’s done, all that you need to do would be to wait for contractions to happen. Sometimes, your doctor will allow you to go home while you wait for it to work.
It can also happen that the tablet or gel doesn’t work. In those cases, you need to go back to your doctor and they might offer you another tablet or gel to help induce labour.
However, once labour starts, everything else should proceed normally.
Are there any risks to inducing labour?
These days, inducing labour is a pretty common procedure. For the most part, the procedure is safe, and mums have nothing to worry about if their doctor recommends it.
But in cases where mums opt to induce labour even without any medical indication, there can be possible risks to the baby as it can sometimes result in a baby that’s premature.
However, that doesn’t mean that complications can’t arise from induced labour. Here are some of the risks that mums need to know about:
- Failed induction. About 75% of first-time mums who have induced labour would be able to deliver their child successfully. However, for the remaining 25%, having a C-section might be a better option. Your doctors will of course talk to you about this and give you the option to have a C-section should you agree to it.
- Lower heart rate. The medication that doctors use to induce labour can sometimes cause abnormal or excessive contractions which can lower your baby’s heart rate and decrease their oxygen supply.
- Uterine rupture. This is extremely rare condition wherein the uterus tears from a scar caused by a prior C-section surgery. In these situations, removing the uterus might be the best option in order to save the mother’s life.
- Infection. Some forms of labour induction can heighten the risk of infection for mothers and babies, particularly in cases wherein the membranes have to be ruptured.
- Excessive bleeding. Inducing labour can sometimes cause your uterine muscles to not properly contract after giving birth, which can lead to excessive bleeding after surgery.
As a rule, it’s always best to listen to your doctor’s recommendations about labour and to carefully weigh the risks and the benefits in order to find out what’s the best option for you and your baby.
Are there any natural ways to help induce labour?
There are also more natural ways of inducing labour, especially for mums who are past their due date and are excited to meet their little one. Here are some of those methods:
- Exercise. Simple exercises such as walking up the stairs or walking around the house can sometimes help induce labour.
- Sex. Sex helps reduce oxytocin, which can help jumpstart uterine contractions. It’s safe to have sex at full term, so mums and dads don’t need to worry that they might hurt the baby.
- Stimulating the nipples. Stimulating the nipples manually or through a breast pump can help release oxytocin which can cause the uterus to contract and start labour.
- Acupuncture and acupressure. Some people believe that acupuncture and acupressure can help induce labour. The important thing to remember is to get it from a licensed professional.
- Certain types of food. Some say that eating spicy food, drinking different types of tea, or eating a salad can help induce labour. While there’s no medical research to support these claims, then it’s okay to try those things so long as your doctor allows you to do so.